Vermont National Guard soldiers return from overseas

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(Host) On Friday afternoon, Vermonters welcomed home a contingent of National Guard soldiers returning from duty in Iraq.

VPR’s John Dillon was there for the celebration.

(Dillon) The 16 soldiers are from Bravo Company, first battalion of the 172nd Armor regiment based in Enosburg.

The company spent a year on the ground in Iraq. Four members were wounded, but none of the injuries were serious.

Jessica West said it was a hard year of worry and waiting as her brother served overseas. The family plans a big holiday celebration on Monday.

(Jessica West) “It was a long, holidays, and birthday and changing addresses and not knowing if packages or letters were over there. Telephone calls, it was pretty long. A lot of things that were missed, so trying to catch up the next couple of weeks.”

(Dillon) The West family had to wait a few more minutes because the soldiers’ luggage was lost on the last leg of their trip. But finally the big overhead door cranked open and men in desert uniforms were embraced by their loved ones.

(Dillon) Sergeant Josh West got long hugs from his family.

(Josh West) “Ah, it feels great to be home. It’s a little too cold though. Need a little bit sun, but not too much. But either way it feels great to be with the people I love.”

(Dillon) The snow afternoon reminds many people of the day last December when the soldiers left.

Maureen Hennessey is here to welcome home a family friend, Sergeant John Crispell of Bakersfield. She saw him off last year and she’s in a much different mood this time.

(Hennessey) “Because the last time we were here it was a year ago. It was so sad, so sad. This is a lot better.”

(Dillon) Sergeant Crispell clearly agrees.

(Crispell) “I can’t describe it. Just being home again, with my family. Words can’t describe the feelings I have to be back home in Vermont. It’s been a long year.”

(Dillon) The 16 members of Bravo Company were the first of their unit to arrive home. Another group of 65 Vermonters, from a company based in Lyndonville, is due home next month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon at Camp Johnson in Colchester.

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